More on Metabolix: “densified switchgrass”

Though it is technically a word (according to Merriam-Webster), I'm not sure "densify" would make my C&EN editors happy, so I'm going to use it here on the blog. Last week we learned that Metabolix was awarded $6 million in USDA/DOE grant money to densify switchgrass. Today, the company issued a press release with a bit more detail on the research. And it seems that to densify a biomass really means to get more good stuff out of a given volume (weight?) of material. In fact, Metabolix wants to "produce densified biomass with transportation and fuel properties closely matching coal." In addition to growing switchgrass with an ever larger percentage of their star bio-based plastic (polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHA), Metabolix has now confirmed the route (or a route)  it plans to take to obtain C4 chemicals from the engineered plants. It will use a thermolysis process to obtain crotonic acid (C4H6O2), which can in turn be converted into chemical intermediates such as butanol and propylene.

Author: Melody Bomgardner

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